Level 18 - Priority

  • Level 18 strategies should only be learned if you have 320+ games of experience with the group.

Special Moves#


The Priority Prompt & The Priority Finesse#

  • Typically, players will only have one card to play at a time. In this case, unless there is some really good clue to give, there are no decisions to be made - they just play their one playable card.
  • What if a player has two or more playable cards to play? Which card should they play first?
  • If one of the cards is not completely known yet (e.g. a playable 2 of unknown color), then the player might want to play that card first in order to find out exactly what it is. In general, nothing special is triggered by players playing an unknown card.
  • On the other hand, something special can be triggered if a player plays a fully-known card, because they knew exactly what they were doing. Our group agrees that playable cards should be played in a specific order. We refer to this as Priority. The agreed Priority is as follows:
PriorityCategory of cardReason
1Blind-playsDemonstrating that a Finesse or Bluff occurred is very important.
2Cards that lead into clued cards in someone else's handOtherwise, the team would lose Tempo.
3Cards that lead into the player's own handIt is bad for a suit to be "held up" on one player.
45'sPlaying a 5 gets the team a free clue.
5The lower rank cardThe smaller stacks are more important to fill up.
6The left-most cardThe left-most card is more likely to be good.
  • If someone plays a fully-known card and the card does not have Priority, then the player must be trying to send a special message.
  • Based on what card they did play, if you have any clued cards in your hand that match the next "connecting" card, it is a message that you can play it right now as a Priority Prompt. (This is similar to a normal Prompt, except instead of initiating the Prompt with a clue, they initiated it with the order that they played cards.)
  • Alternatively, if you do not have any clued cards in your hand that connects to the card that they played, then you should play your Finesse Position card as a Priority Finesse.
  • For example, in a 3-player game:
    • Alice has a clued + known playable red 1 and a clued + known playable blue 2 in her hand.
    • Alice plays blue 2.
    • Bob comes next. Bob knows that normally, when you have a choice between two cards, you are supposed to play the lowest rank card. (Unless it is a blind-play, or it leads into someone's hand, or it is a 5.) Bob does not see any blue 3's, so he knows that Alice was supposed to play the red 1 instead of the blue 2. Alice did not play the card with Priority.
    • This means that Bob must have a blue 3. Bob does not have any clued cards in his hand, so he blind-plays his Finesse Position card.
  • Similar to a normal Prompt, if a Priority Prompt could apply to two or more clued cards, then you should play the left-most one.
  • Similar to a normal Prompt, if a Priority Prompt made you play the left-most card and it was not the connecting card, then you should continuing playing clued cards until you find the connecting card.

The Priority Bluff#

  • Similar to a normal Bluff, it is also possible for players to perform a Priority Bluff.
  • For example, in a 3-player game:
    • Alice has a known playable red 1 and a known playable blue 2 in her hand.
    • Alice plays blue 2.
    • Bob comes next. Bob knows that normally, when you have a choice between two cards, you are supposed to play the lowest rank card. (Unless it is a blind-play, or it leads into someone's hand, or it is a 5.) Bob does not see any blue 3's, so he knows that Alice was supposed to play the red 1 instead of the blue 2. Alice did not play the card with Priority.
    • This means that Bob must have a blue 3. Bob does not have any clued cards in his hand, so he blind-plays his Finesse Position card. It is not the blue 3 and is instead the green 1. Bob now knows that he was Bluffed and that no-one has the blue 3.
AliceAlice plays Blue 2 instead of Red 1BobGreen 1Bob blind plays slot 1 as Blue 3Cathy

A Priority Flowchart (for Choosing Between 2+ Playable Cards)#

Priority can be confusing. Here is a flowchart that shows, in general, which card should be played when there is a choice between two cards.

Here is another flowchart that shows how Priority works when one or more of the cards is unknown.


Priority Exceptions#

Priority does not always apply. Some common exceptions are listed below.

1) End-Game#

  • Priority is generally "turned off" in the End-Game, because players often need to play specific cards.
  • With that said, Priority can still work if a player plays a card that would be really terrible for the team otherwise.

2) The 4's Priority Exception#

  • If a player has a known playable 5 and a known playable 4 that leads into their own hand, then according to the above Priority table, the known playable 4 would have Priority. However, this does not make much sense, since the 5 has to be played no matter what, playing the 5 gives the team a clue back, the 4 could be played by someone else, and so on.
  • Thus, if a player has a known playable 5 and a known playable 4 that leads into their own hand, then the 5 is said to have Priority.

3) Blind-Playing Globally-Known Cards#

  • Normally, blind-playing cards has Priority over everything else.
  • However, in some advanced cases, the blind-play does not need to be demonstrated to the team - everyone already has full knowledge of what is going on. In this case, players are supposed to treat the cards as clued for the purposes of finding the Priority. (The Gentleman's Discards is the main move that this applies to.)

4) "Important" Cards#

  • Normally, cards that are the same rank should be played from left-to-right.
  • However, in certain situations, players can know that some other card is more important than the left-most card. If a player plays a "more important" card, it should never trigger a "right-to-left" style Priority Finesse.
  • For example, in a 3-player game:
    • In the Early Game, Alice clues number 2 to Bob, touching three 2's on slot 3, slot 4, and slot 5 (his chop). (This is the 2 Save convention.)
    • Later on in the game, all of the 1's are now played on the stacks.
    • Bob has not received any other clues since then - all of his 2's are known playable, but he has no idea what color they are.
    • Normally, Bob knows that he is supposed to play his 2's from left-to-right. However, he also knows that his 2 on slot 5 is the most important card out of all of them - it was the focus of the original 2 Save by Alice.
    • Thus, Bob plays his 2 on slot 5 first. After that, he plays the 2's from left-to-right like normal.

The Load Clue#

  • Players will generally play cards without Priority if they see the next card in someone else's Finesse Position, because this will get the card for "free" as a Priority Finesse.
  • Less commonly, players will see the next card in someone else's hand, but it will not be in Finesse Position. In these cases, it might still be good to play the card without Priority, just so that the player with the next card will have something to do on their turn.
  • However, if they do play the card without Priority, it will cause an impending misplay because the target player will think the card is actually on their Finesse Position. Thus, doing this forces someone to give a clue to the card directly in order to stop the misplay.
  • This clue is similar to a Fix Clue, since it fixes an impending misplay. But we specifically call this kind of clue a Load Clue to differentiate it from a Fix Clue that fixes a Lie or mistake. It is a Load Clue because it is loading the player up with something to do on their turn.
  • If you receive a Load Clue, you should suspect that you might have something valuable on your chop, as this would be an excellent reason to commit the team to giving the Load Clue in the first place.
  • If a player has a choice between playing one card that leads nowhere and playing one card that commits the team to giving a Load Clue, then they are not obligated to choose one or the other - they can choose whichever one is best for the situation.
  • When a player receives a Load Clue, they are to interpret it as a normal Play Clue instead of a Fix Clue.
  • For example, in a 3-player game:
    • Red 1 and blue 1 are played on the stacks.
    • Alice has a choice between playing a known red 2 or a known blue 2. The red 2 has Priority because it is the left-most card.
    • Alice plays the blue 2.
    • Bob sees that Cathy's hand is as follows, from newest to oldest: yellow 4, yellow 3, yellow 4, red 1, blue 3.
    • Bob sees that Cathy will think that Alice is performing a Priority Finesse on the blue 3. Thus, Bob must now give a Load Clue to stop the impending misplay.
    • Bob clues number 3 to Cathy.
    • Cathy is surprised - she was about to play her Finesse Position card as a blue 3, but she now knows that it can't be a blue 3.
    • If this was a Fix Clue, Cathy might be inclined to play the card that was closest to her slot 1 (which would be the 3 on slot 2).
    • However, Cathy knows that Load Clues are to be interpreted as normal Play Clues instead of Fix Clues, so she interprets this as a normal Chop-Focus Play Clue and plays blue 3 from slot 5.
AliceAlice plays Blue 2BobClue GiverClue GiverCathyYellow 43Yellow 3Yellow 4Red 13Blue 3

The Layered Priority Finesse#

  • Similar to a normal Layered Finesse, it is also possible to initiate a Layered Priority Finesse as long as the blind-playing player is not the very next person.

The Priority Finesse (Special Case)#

  • To review, if a player has two playable cards, and both of them are fully-known, then they always have the ability to trigger a Priority Finesse.
  • If a player has two playable cards, and only one of them is fully-known, a Priority Finesse will never be triggered if they play the unknown card.
  • But what if a player plays a fully-known card over an unknown card? They can still trigger a Priority Finesse, but only if every single possibility for the unknown card would have Priority over the card that was played.
  • For example, in a 3-player game:
    • Red 2 is played on the stacks. The 1's are played on all of the other stacks.
    • Alice has a globally-known red 3. (She was given a Play Clue on it earlier.)
    • Alice has a 2 of unknown color. (She was given a Save Clue on it earlier, but it is now playable since all of the 1's are down.)
    • Alice's 2 could be either blue 2, green 2, yellow 2, or purple 2.
    • The rest of the team does not have any clued cards in their hands.
    • Alice knows that all of the possibilities for the 2 would have Priority over the red 3, since all of them are lower rank.
    • Alice plays the red 3 anyway, which triggers a Priority Finesse on the red 4.
AliceAlice plays Red 3BobRed 4Cathy

The Trust Finesse (A Situational Priority Finesse)#

  • According to the Priority rules, if an unknown card is played, no Priority Finesse can be triggered.
  • However, even if this is the case, if playing one of the cards over the other would be really dumb, it should still trigger a Finesse.
  • This type of move is called a Trust Finesse to distinguish it from the case where the card is globally known.
  • It is also possible to perform a Trust Prompt, a Trust Bluff, and so forth.
  • For example, in a 3-player game:
    • All the 1's are played on the stacks.
    • Alice has two playable cards in her hand:
      • One of the cards has a red clue on it. Since it was originally clued as a Play Clue, it is globally known that Alice knows that this is exactly red 2.
      • One of the cards has a number 2 clue on it. Since it was originally clued with a Save Clue, it can be any non-red 2. But it is playable because all of the 1's are already played.
    • Bob has a clued and globally known red 3 in his hand.
    • Alice knows that she is expected to play her red 2 into Bob's red 3, because that would be good teamwork.
    • Unknown from the rest of the team, Alice knows from the context of the game that her 2 must be exactly blue 2.
    • Bob has blue 3 on his Finesse Position.
    • Alice plays the globally unknown 2 to cause a Trust Finesse.
AliceAlice plays the unknown 2BobBlue 3Yellow 2Yellow 2Cathy

The Paused Priority Finesse#

  • For the purposes of Priority, blind-playing a card is the most important thing to do. When players are supposed to be blind-playing a card, they are usually not allowed to perform a Priority Finesse - they must stick to playing the blind card.
  • One exception to this is if a player is in the middle of unraveling the layer of a Layered Finesse. Since they have already blind-played their first card in the layer, they have demonstrated that the Finesse was on them, and now everyone on the team knows that the rest of the cards inside of the layer are "gotten" for sure.
  • Note that this only applies when the card that was blind-played was unrelated to the original Layered Finesse.
    • For example, if a player is finessed for both the red 1 and the red 2 and has just blind-played a green 1, then they can perform a Paused Priority Finesse, because everyone on the team knows that the green 1 played as red 1 and therefore that the layer is not yet unraveled.
    • However, if a player is finessed for both the red 1 and the red 2 and has just blind-played the red 1, then they cannot perform a Paused Priority Finesse because they haven't demonstrated to the team that they are still finessed for the red 2.
  • Thus, in this situation, a player can "pause" finishing up the Layered Finesse and play some other clued card to perform a Paused Priority Finesse.